The INEC chairman’s admission of electoral gain reversal following the Anambra State governorship election is a confession that he may have lost steam ahead of the critical 2015 general election, writes Vincent Obia
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, has been on the spot since the generally condemned Anambra State governorship election. He has been hard-pressed to explain INEC’s failure to deliver a credible election in the South-east state on November 16, despite all the time, money, and personnel that went into the conduct of the poll.
On Wednesday in Abuja, Jega admitted during a dialogue with a civil society group, the Nigeria Civil Society Election Situation Room, that the Anambra election was flawed.
“Anambra is an election we fully prepared for. We worked more than we had ever done in any state. Regrettably however, what we saw was evidence of reversal in Delta and Anambra. We are disappointed with the reversals,” the INEC chairman said. “But we are not leaving any stone unturned at unraveling what actually transpired. We will investigate Anambra thoroughly and meticulously. We will do a thorough enquiry in Anambra. We cannot afford to lose hope. We will do better in the future.”
Virtually every person or group that monitored the Anambra State governorship poll had concluded that the exercise was flawed. Jega merely echoed the verdict on many lips.
Yet Jega’s remarks have sparked debate, as it is pored over for deeper meaning. With the admission of gain reversal after the controversial Anambra State election, many think that he has either lost control over the all-important electoral body as an umpire or is now incapable of warding off a systematic plot to defraud the Nigerian electorate.
The question many asked after Jega’s admission of the flawed elections was, “Is he just learning about the monumental flaws?”
The INEC chairman had apologised to Nigerians regarding the Anambra election before now. But he had also, prior to that apology, complained on television on the election day about some worrying logistic lapses that he had noticed.
Some Nigerians had expected Jega to cancel the Anambra election after observing the curious logistic hitches that had tended to be concentrated in the opposition strongholds, many of which were less than 30 minutes’ drive from the state capital. Interestingly, in areas controlled by the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance in the state, materials and personnel were available in good time, even though many of the areas were about three hours’ drive from Awka.
Rather than discontinue the election, as he had done in April 2011 during the National Assembly elections, Jega chose to carry on with the flaws. A decision to take the same recourse as he did at the National Assembly poll would have saved the country the ignominy that is now threatening to erase whatever gains that have been made in the past in efforts to resolve the crisis of election.
The popular feeling is that Jega might have been minded to call off the Anambra election, but there were voices at his elbow that warned him not to let the thought cross his mind. The INEC chairman certainly failed the popular expectation.
Jega knew that whatever the outcome of yesterday’s supplementary election will not change the result of the governorship election or heal its defects. He has tended to stylishly push the responsibility for any decisive action on the poll to the judiciary and play safe.
The public admissions of flaws regarding the Anambra election and the apologies by Jega are okay. But the seemingly serial nature of the flaws and apologies are indications that the INEC chairman may be overwhelmed by pressure to do the wrong thing. It is a sign of declining performance. Jega should be wary of acts that can sully his hard-won integrity.